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How To Keep Kids Positive In Sports

Updated on October 17, 2016
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Baseball Brains is a very successful blog and online group which helps players, coaches, and parents learn about and teach the game!

Playing Sports Can Be Hard on Children

Whether boy or girl, there's no doubt that sports or other competitive activities have a very strong impact on the psyche of children. These experiences are intense, challenging, nerve racking, and often the results are out in the open for everybody to see.

Invariably, our children will succeed sometimes and fail other times. When success is being achieved on a regular basis, everything can move along quite well and life seems very good. However, when things turn for the worse, it can be a real challenge for the kids and parents.

This is when parents can have a tremendous impact in the kid's world. Here are some tips to keep it positive!

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You Shouldn't Force Your Kids To Play Sports

Right from the start, we want to make sure that we're not forcing our kids into competitive situations they don't want to be in.

Even a lot of well wishing parents sometimes put their children in situations they don't belong in or don't want to be in. It's important that you truly listen to the things your kid is saying with regard to sports, if they don't want to play they will say it. Sometimes they won't say those exact words, but if you're really listening they will make it obvious.

If they have concerns or uneasiness about playing a sport, don't let those pass by without a real conversation. If you as a parent aren't sure how to best address their concern, you should find somebody who can and reach out. Often times this can be a coach, teacher, or parent of your child's friend that may be able to talk to your child and ease their concerns.

If a young person engages in a competitive field without any desire to be there in the first place, staying positive in that endeavour becomes nearly impossible.

Kids Should Be Prepared To Play Sports

This one is fairly simple, but it's very important. A big part of a child's quality of life is how they view themselves among their peers. This self esteem component can have a huge impact on whether their experience on the field or court is positive or not.

So I'm not necessarily referring to teaching your kid the sport here, that's going to be the coaches jobs once your kid is out there. What you can do as a parent to prepare your kid are a few of these things:

  1. Get them the appropriate gear.
  2. Let them know what to expect based the information you've gotten from the coach
  3. Get them to practice and games on time
  4. Consider a little outside help if needed, private instruction
  5. Talk positively about the sport leading up to the season!

These are a few things that will lay a good groundwork for positivity once the child starts playing.

Parents Should Not Criticize The Coach

This one can be tough, and there are a lot of reasons for that.

Sometimes, we as parents have coached our kids ourselves for a long time and then we have to let them go into somebody else's hands. This is an incredible challenge for parents in many ways, the one that applies here is that the coach will almost always do things a little differently than you did.

Other times, we see struggles on the field by our kids or by the team in general, and we want to blame it on somebody other than our kid or his teammates. The go to guy is the coach all too often.

Now I'm not saying that you can't be critical of the coach at any time, I am saying that you should keep it to yourself. If it rises to a critical problem, I would advise talking to the coaches boss about what the standards are and address your concerns with them.

Never talk bad or critically of the coach to your kid however. Your child needs to have confidence on the field or court. Confidence in their coach is imperative, they have to be able to trust the things they're being taught in practice and directed to do in games. If you denigrate the coach to your child, they will slowly lose confidence and respect for the coach and this will not help them be their best.

Even if the coaches aren't perfect, and none of them are, your player having trust in them and working hard is crucial to their experience. In order to stay positive, your child must have confidence in what they're doing. You can help by not being too critical of the coaching in front of your child.

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Parents Should Not Talk Bad About The Team

If your kid is on a team, you should be positive about the team itself. There will always be kids of varying skill level on the team, and a lot of the kids that aren't as good as yours will play in the games. Again, this is going to happen and it can be frustrating.

No matter how frustrating it is however, you should be positive about your kid's teammates. There is often an element of competition even among the teammates if there is more than one player trying to occupy the same position. This is healthy and can teach a valuable life lesson that can be carried into the professional world as well.

However, even in this situation, it's not appropriate to downgrade or disrespect our peers. It's valuable and important that your kid learns to respect and learn from his teammates, whether they are in competition with them or not and even if they don't necessarily like them.

Your behavior as a parent needs to be exactly the same way. Point out the things the team does right, and teach respect for everybody on the field. When your kid is on the field and looks left or right, he needs to see somebody he feels positive about, it will help them feel exactly the same way.

Arguing With Your Child Will Not Help

This one is tough, and I'll be more specific. On the ride home or at the dinner table, your child can sometimes be very down and very negative. My advice is to let them talk, even ask them questions, but don't argue with them.

Anybody out there have teenagers? If your player is a teenager than this comes as no surprise, but they really don't care a whole lot what you say when they're mad! If they want to gripe about a coach or something they did wrong, you telling them it's not true or telling them they shouldn't be mad about it will have very little positive impact.

Here's a trick to help a lot on the ride home, get them fed! If they're hungry after a long game then the negativity will be multiplied by a few times and it won't be much fun. Sometimes they are just cranky because they're exhausted, stressed, bummed, and need some food. Children are not good at being cranky quietly, so when they get negative or argumentative, let them vent and let them know that you are there for them

Alway Be Encouraging Your Child

Be your kids biggest fan! This doesn't mean they want you in the stands yelling their name at the top of your voice, they probably don't in fact. It does mean though that you should make it known that you love watching them play and you love watching them get better and better. These are true (hopefully), so tell them that and tell them that often.

Sports are hard work and a lot of kids growing up are a little...averse shall we say, to hard work. So don't always make your advice: "keep working!" or "work hard at it and you'll get there!". These little motivational things are fine and often helpful, but it's also nice to here some encouragement now and then that doesn't sound exactly like their coach telling them to run!

Remind Them It's a Game!

Sports are games, and they should be fun! If you practice at home, make it fun. If you talk about the sport at home, make it lighthearted. If you watch the sort on TV, watch it for what it is and don't always be analysing things.

I'm a very competitive coach and parent, so I know how difficult all of these things are at times. However, I also know how absolutely critical it is for players to be positive on the field.

I'm sure this article is not close to exhaustive but they're some of the things that could help you keep your kid more positive if they play sports!


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    • baseballbrains profile image

      baseballbrains 3 years ago

      Thanks Karen! I'm glad that you brought up the "instructing from the stands" aspect. Usually the parent has not been at the practices, and never is the parent fully aware of all the things the coach has been saying. Thus, most the things they yell out serve to confuse or at least muddle the focus of the player. Very good point, thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

    • Karen Ray profile image

      Karen Ray 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Good hub for sports parents to read. I always hated hearing the parents yelling instructions at the kid on the field, sometimes contradictory to what the coaches told the kid to do. Not to mention it distracts the child. Hearing some of the parents attitude in the stands, it's no wonder when kids have one too.